I woke up this morning and the world felt a little bit colder. My team’s season is over.
One of the things I did this summer, in the height of the baseball season, was read The Only Rule is it Has to Work. Two advanced stats-inclined writers, Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, are given control of an independent baseball league team in California and attempt to put their stats-based theories into practice.
Miller and Lindbergh write compellingly about a number of challenges they face, but one of the themes that recurs over and over is their desire to use their closer in high-leverage situations, rather than waiting for a save opportunity. There’s no point in waiting, they argue, if you fail to make a save opportunity ever appear.
The Orioles lost a game last night in which their closer, Zach Britton, who just posted the lowest ERA in a single season, never made it out of the bullpen.
I really don’t know what to make of it. It was a brutal, stomach-punching loss, the kind you can wallow in for a week.
Buck Showalter, the Orioles manager, will likely face a well-pitchforked mob and he probably deserves it. Saving Britton and his 0.54 ERA, not once but twice, is completely and totally inexcusable.
I love Buck. He’s made a number of head-scratching decisions in his tenure, but I’ve always felt comforted knowing how prepared he was. Looking at his lineup every day could make you quizzical, but I always felt pretty sure he knew something I didn’t.
That wasn’t the case last night and my faith is badly shaken. I don’t want to see Buck fired, but I could understand it if the organization decides he needs to go.
There’s no chance the Orioles get anywhere near last night’s game without him. He brilliantly managed the bullpen all season, despite an injury to Darren O’Day and way too many dreadful outings from starting pitchers. I hope he keeps his job.
It’s going to be an intolerably long time until there is Orioles baseball again. I’m already looking forward to the next Dan Duquette bargain bin find who leads the league in home runs. I’m excited to watch Manny Machado become one of the two or three best players in the game.
Until next year.